The Diamond door seemed the simplest answer, so I chose to open it.
I had been expecting alot of things at this point. The memory of that monster was still lingering in my mind, and the absurdity of the world I was in now had desensitized me. I didn't think there could be anything that would surprise me at this point.
How very wrong I was. The door swung open as easily, and in that instant the space around me twisted in upon itself. The air rippled out, and in an instant I found myself in a stone chamber. Rina was calmly standing beside me, a solemn look upon her face.
The floor and walls were a made of fog grey stonework. The room itself was small and circular, with a couple of columns holding up the cieling. Across from us was a massive iron gate that was bound in eerily glowing chains, with red and blue lights running and coalescing about them.
I noticed a small circular window on one wall, and I decided to peek out. Beyond I saw a circular staircase that wrapped around all the way into a inky abyss below. The light didn't reach all the way to the bottom of the chasm, and looking down into it I could feel goosebumps rise up on my arms.
Risa had ghosted her way behind me, and stared out into the fathomless darkness with me. Glancing back I could see a sad smile touch her lips. Beckoning me to follow, I trailed behind her until we stood in front of the gate. Through the gaps in the bars the start of the stairs could be seen.
"It is truly misfortunate that consumed that food. Now, you are just as bound to this wretched existence as Seran and me." Risa announced.
I looked to her and asked, "What is this place? What's going on?"
Risa met my eyes and began to lay out the terrible truth, "This is a prison. To be more precise, it's a prison cell. You see this gate?" Nodding, I watched as Risa pulled a single strang of her long hair, and with a flick of the wrist tossed it against the chains. The second it brushed the glowing metal, the entire strand burst into violet flames and turned to ash in the blink of an eye. Shocked I fell and pushed myself backward until my back met one of the columns.
Laughing lightly, she strutted over to me and offered a hand. I took it, and noticed my own were shaking. Risa nodded sadly and gestured toward the gate.
"It is fortunate you have the chance to see this sooner rather than later. You see, this is the final door between the one and only sole prisoner of this dimensional quagmire. It is also, ironically, the only way for someone to leave this place once they have embedded themselves in this world."
Risa met my eyes once more and I could see the gloom that settles upon someone after true despair sets in, then she said, "The only way you may ever leave this place, dead or alive, is to break through the Final Gate, and escape through the Door of Rebirth located at the bottom of the chasm."
"You and Seran are trapped here as well, right? How come neither of you have done it? And what do you mean, alive or dead?" I asked.
A far away look crept into her eyes, and Rina said, "To you're first question, obviously yes. Second, because we have seen countless others throw their souls away trying to do just that same thing. To break the chains and pass through the Gate, you have to defeat the two Guardians. You already had the pleasure of meeting one of them." With a shudder I realized that she meant that mechanical monstrosity.
Continuing, "Seran and I offered to serve the two Guardians rather than suffer their wrath. We help lure in newcomers, and the Guardians slay them. Thirdly, when you die here, your soul isn't allowed to go to either Heaven, Hell, or anything else. A soul can freely pass through the Gate, so it is dragged here by the sheer will of the prisoner, who then consumes them. Whatever is left is the Guardians' to play with."
I could feel the blood fade from my cheeks as the horror of what she was saying struck me. However, I had to keep asking questions. I had to learn more.
"Why are you telling me this if you're helping them? Why aren't you feeding me to your master right now?" Rina smiled.
"It's quite simple," she said. "Seran saw fit to preserve your life, for whatever reason. Perhaps he thinks you can succeed where others failed and free us. I of course think he's delirious if he believes you're suited for the task. Oh, and while Seran serves the Puppeteer, my master has yet to order me to lure you to him, so you have nothing to fear from me... Yet."
I swallowed down the growing fear in me and queried, "S-so, how exactly do I beat the Guardians and break the chains?"
Laughing now, Rina answered, "I wouldn't have the faintest idea, and even if I did I couldn't tell you. Why do you think that no one has ever done it before? Rest assured, my Master doesn't know you're here yet, so that's half your problem resolved for now. However, the Puppet Master will hunt you now, and will begin setting all the rooms up to ensnare you. I would be on my guard if I were you."
I nodded slowly, digesting everything she had told me thus far. I had one last question for her, though.
"The prisoner. Who is it?"
Rina smiled her sad smile and answered, "Not who. What. If you manage to best one of the Guardians, I suppose I could tell you the whole story, but for now just be content know one thing. The being down there, was the only thing that existed before everything else, and even from his cell he effects everything with his presence. Try and wrap your little head around that."
Rina walked over to one of the walls and pressed down on a stone. The wall pulled back to reveal a single doorway. She stepped through it, beckoning me to follow. I chased after her, and was shocked to see I was back in the very first room I had began in. Rina had dissapeared, and I was faced with those same three doors as before.
Rina's words echoed in my mind, her warning that the Puppet Master will have changed the rooms, setting up traps.